Tuesday 7 March 2023

Picnic Party by David Gower, lemonade

‘I knew we should have all gone together. Now we are late, you take so long getting ready.’ Angela scolded her sister as they pedalled the last hundred yards to the Old Meadow.

The boys were bringing a picnic for this glorious summer day in wartime Suffolk. Perhaps the last for some time in what the papers called the Phoney War. Against the gate was evidence that errand boy Ronnie and his brother Jimmy had arrived. Jimmy had borrowed his mother’s old Rudge and Ronnie brought his grocer’s bike. The wicker basket was absent. It would contain the promised treats and tablecloth.

‘Come on before they scoff everything.’ Angela cajoled. They dropped their bikes, passed through the gate and along an uneven footpath to the hayricks. The picnic was to be behind the end hayrick furthest from the road. A wooden pitchfork leaned against it.

Laid out before them was an old curtain, assorted blue and white plates, three cups, one mug missing a handle, a bloomer loaf, four slices of ham and a pot of jam, four eggs (hard boiled?) and cutlery. A veritable feast but where were the boys? The wicker basket was empty but for a small booklet lying face down, a sheath knife and a catapult.

‘They’re not here, Angela.’ Maureen had an instinct for stating the obvious. She seemed oblivious to the annoyance this caused her sister.

‘Well, they must be somewhere. They have laid all the food out. They must be nearby, Maureen. They can’t have vanished into thin air, can they?’

‘Where are they then?’ Maureen epitomised the sibling born to annoy.

‘Ronnie! Jimmy! Where are yooouuuuu?’ Angela called out. The birds flew off startled. Her shout was more effective than the immobile ragged scarecrow nearby. She called again, still with no apparent result other than the birds keeping their distance.

‘What shall we do, Angie?’ the younger sibling asked. ‘Where are they?’

Old Meadow was a large space dotted with the hayricks from harvest time. Along the edges ran hedges and woodland. There was nowhere for the boys who had laid out the picnic to go.

Angela must lead in this situation. Where were the boys? There was no one visible as except for the farm workers on a distant hillside. An answer came to mind.

‘Perhaps they have had to answer a call of nature and gone off to do ‘their business.’ This seemed a logical solution. It would explain their absence and naturally the boys would want privacy.

Time passed with no sign of the boys returning.

‘Where are they, Angie?’ Maureen’s voice became a querying whine. This tone always irritated her older sister.

Angela was unsettled by the situation but as the older sibling she must look after Maureen.

‘We can eat while we wait for them to come back.’ This course of action would distract Maureen, give time for the boys to return and teach them a lesson for being so inconsiderate. The church clock struck the quarter. They had already been here for fifteen minutes. The skylarks sang high above breaking the silence.

As Maureen picked up an egg. Behind them a voice shouted, ‘Hands up!’

The girls screamed. The hayrick had erupted, and Ronnie stood clutching the pitchfork. To their left the scarecrow – now they could see it was Jimmy - ran towards them laughing.

Boys! How could they do this? It was the sort of stupid things that boys did!

The answer lay in the basket in the booklet called ‘What to do in case of invasion. Camouflage!’


About the author

David has been a contributor of several stories to CafeLit following his introduction to his local creative writing group. Back after a long break struggling with technology! 


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